New Advising Practices

Dear Deerfield Families,

As the school year gets underway, I’d like to offer you some information about advising in the year ahead. Returning families may notice some changes.

The fundamental premise of Deerfield advising remains the same: Ensure that every student has an advocate – someone who understands, supports, and values them.

Our new practices are designed to augment those connections. They are an outgrowth of work by the faculty Feedback Committee, which was tasked with a review of the types of feedback Deerfield offers students, the role of the student in processing that feedback, and the ways we might make our feedback more substantive and timely. After two years of study and a steady exchange of ideas across the community, the Feedback Committee recommended a set of new advising practices, and the faculty voted to approve them at our year-end meetings last spring.

These new features have three primary goals: First, position students more centrally in their Deerfield experiences by fostering greater self-reflection and responsibility. Second, provide advisors and advisees with resources to develop clearly-defined, meaningful, and substantive goals, while also acknowledging that goals will vary broadly from advisee to advisee. Our older students may have keen insight into their strengths and areas they’d target for improvement. Younger members of the community may begin with the most rudimentary steps. Both are understandable, provided they’re undertaken in earnest. Finally, focus on the day-to-day habits and decisions that serve as the most important ingredients for success in reaching goals.

These new practices are designed to help Deerfield students, with active support from their advisors, set meaningful goals and reflect on their efforts to achieve those goals. In the process, we hope they will develop good habits and the self-awareness to navigate obstacles and successes at Deerfield and beyond

2017-2018 ADVISING CALENDAR

Sunday, September 10: Your children met in their advisory groups to discuss strategies for academic growth and to preview goal setting and reflection in the year ahead.

Wednesday, October 11 – Wednesday, October 18: During this week, students will share their goals in letters submitted to their advisors, who will then upload them to DAinfo.
 As parents and guardians, you’ll have access to these writings through your parent/guardian portal.

Monday, October 16: Afternoon cocurriculars will be shortened so that students have time to write their letters.

Friday, October 20 – Saturday, October 21 (Fall Family Weekend): Over Fall Family Weekend, your children’s goals can serve as the foundation of your conferences with advisors.

Wednesday, November 29 – Thursday, November 30: With special schedules on these two days, just after fall grades, comments, and cocurricular reports are shared, time will be set aside for students to craft written reflections on their progress, the habits they’re forming, the obstacles they’ve encountered, and the successes they’ve enjoyed. All November reflections are uploaded by advisors into DAinfo, where you’ll find them for your review.

Thursday, December 14: By this deadline, advisors will offer written responses to their advisees’ reflection letters. These comments will provide an appraisal of progress toward goals set in September and October. They may also include further insight into themes and trends from end-of-term teacher comments and cocurricular reports, a preview of the path ahead in the second half of the school year, and/or any other relevant factors prompted within advisees’ reflection letters.

Monday, June 18: This is the deadline for submission of advisors’ year-end summaries. While winter comments were direct responses to advisees’ reflections, summaries serve as advisors’ opportunity to comment on every facet of their advisees’ Deerfield experience over the past year and also to identify areas of particular challenge and growth.

By year’s end, we’re confident that parents and guardians will find value and insight in the written exchange between advisor and advisee.

Over the course of the fall term, your children’s advisors may ask you to engage with the following questions. Your responses can strengthen the partnership between family and school:

  •    What do you think your child is most looking forward to in the year/term ahead?
  •    About what might your child be most anxious?
  •    What are your goals for your child in the term/year ahead?
  •    What are your child’s goals for the term/year ahead?
  •    Please offer an anecdote that you think captures your child’s strengths.
  •    Please offer an anecdote that you think captures your child’s weaknesses.
  •    Now that your child is at Deerfield Academy, how often and through what 
medium do you expect to communicate with your child?
  •    At Deerfield, we encourage students to develop certain skills. How do you help your child learn the values of self-reliance, grit, and resilience? How might Deerfield partner with you most effectively in those efforts?

Also, please note our schoolwide, published expectations for communication with parents and guardians:

Advisors should seek to respond to parent/guardian calls and/or emails within 36 hours. If an advisee is in danger or there is an emergency, advisors should respond as soon as they are able. Security (413.772.9880) and the SOC (413.772.9070) are available 24 hours a day.

I hope this update on our advising practices serves helpful to you as you anticipate the year ahead with your children and their advisors. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Amie Wilmer Creagh

Assistant Head of School for Student Life

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